Manchester United labored to a victory in a drawn-out FA Cup fixture on Tuesday over West Ham United. On a snowy evening at Old Trafford, a late strike from Scott McTominay guided the hosts past David Moyes’ Hammers and into the quarter finals. The Red Devils required 30 minutes of Extra Time to secure qualification despite dominating the game for long periods of time.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer heavily rotated the squad for this game bringing in Henderson for de Gea. He also played Telles on LWB, Maguire, and Lindelof at center back, Wan-Bissaka at RWB. The midfield trio comprised Fred, Matic, and Donny van de Beek. The front three were Greenwood, Rashford, and Martial. The bench included Bruno, McTominay, Cavani, Brandon Williams, Luke Shaw, and new-boy Amad.
Although United fans have a rough relationship with Moyes, the Scotsman was all smiles when he greeted Ole and Carrick at the manager’s dugout. Moyes has not won at Old Trafford as an away manager in 14 attempts, and certainly didn’t win too many times as a home manager either. United started the game strongly, but their formation and playing style was a bit disappointing. While van de Beek was expected to play the #10 role, he was often advancing too far ahead. This left the playmaking in the hands of Fred, who is unfortunately not very good at it.
Fred misplaced some passes in the attack, but United were easily controlling possession and the game. Mason, Rashford, and Martial attempted several combination moves around the edge of the box. However, they were unable to find space inside the box. United pushed West Ham deeper and deeper, till they were effectively playing with 9 center backs. Despite controlling possession, United’s passing was very defensive.
Alex Telles and Rashford combined very well on the left to deliver some good crosses, forcing West Ham into some last ditch saves and blocks. Telles also played Martial through into the box but the Frenchman’s shot was blocked by Declan Rice. Matic took a hopeful shot from distance but it was high and wide. AWB was drifting into the 6-yard box hoping for a rebound or cross. The United RB was advancing into the 6 yard box as the shot came in- underlining his recent attacking intent. However, AWB did not find any space on his wing to deliver crosses as United’s attack was concentrated on the left. Lindelof’s header off a corner was saved brilliantly by Fabianski, who pulled off some very good saves today. United were turning the screws as the half wore on, but were eventually unable to break the deadlock.
Manchester United struggled for periods of the second half as West Ham began to play a more attacking game. West Ham’s wingers found acres of space on the sides. They delivered some excellent crosses, drawing clearances from Lindelof and Maguire. Rashford had another bad day at the office as he constantly attempted to break into the box and try fancy step-overs instead of looking for the better outlet. He also missed a good one-on-one chance from close range. Poor finishing from him, he should have buried the chance he got there.
West Ham began troubling United more and more as the hour-mark approached. This would have been a good time for United to use their subs and change the game up. However, Ole waited until the 73rd minute when he brought on Fernandes and McTominay for van de Beek and Matic. A rough day for VdB as he failed to make an impact on the game.
Bruno made an immediate impact as United moved the ball much quicker and into space in the attacking third. He also put in a shift defensively with his good work rate and recovery runs. Declan Rice blocked another . The resulting corner fell to Fred but his shoddy shot-taking was miserably disappointing. With extra time looming, the game was evenly poised. Victor Lindelof almost shot himself in the foot with a bad giveaway to Pablo Fornals, but luckily United escaped.
Despite controlling the tempo of the game, the United midfielders and forwards were nullified by West Ham’s defense. Ole also brought on Cavani to replace Greenwood in the 89th minute, hoping to find a striker’s finish and end the game in regulation time. However, United were unable to get score and the teams went in for another 30 minutes of football. The hosts also narrowly escaped conceding at the death off a well-taken corner kicked out by Wan-Bissaka.
Extra Time and Thoughts
At the beginning of extra time, Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw came on to replace AWB and Telles. Although Shaw has been impressive lately, Telles’ display today was impressive and did not necessarily warrant a substitution. Luckily for the hosts, they soon found the winner via Scott McTominay’s goal. West Ham failed to clear their lines and the ball dropped to Rashford. The forward poked the ball into McTominay’s path and the Scottish midfielder fired home! Incredible passion from the Red Devils as they collectively sighed with relief.
United were ahead but knew that they could not lose focus and give away a cheap equalizer. Benrahma made some good attacking runs into the United final third but Lindelof and Maguire did just enough to see out the result. Although United pushed hard for a second goal, they were unable to build a goal cushion. At full-time, United gleefully accepted the qualification to the next round. They will hope to gain momentum for their trip to West Brom. As every game in the Premier League gets more and more intense, and Europa fixtures come about, United’s true mettle and character will be tested in the coming few weeks.
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